by Stephen Von Slagle
Even before the creation of Capitol Sports Promotions (the parent company of the World Wrestling Council) in 1973, Puerto Rico had traditionally been one of professional wrestling’s major hotbeds. And, while he cannot be solely credited with wrestling’s consistently high rate of popularity on the island, Carlos Colon, Puerto Rico’s most famous and beloved wrestler, as well as the founder/co-owner of the WWC, has certainly been the catalyst behind the long-running creative and financial success of Capitol Sports. It is by no means an overstatement to say that Carlos Colon is perhaps the most important figure in the history of pro wrestling in Puerto Rico and his influence in that region of the world cannot be questioned or ignored.
Carlos Colon was born Carlos Edwin Colón Gonzalez on July 18, 1948 in Santa Isabel, Puerto Rico. After moving to the U.S., specifically New York City, he began a career as a professional wrestler in 1966 at the age of just 18. While he had no experience as an amateur, the athletic young Colon learned and adapted quickly to the pro ranks after receiving his initial training and getting a start in the business, working for promoters throughout the northeast. Starting at the very bottom and working hard to make a name for himself, Colon slowly but surely began to rise up the card, particularly in Canada, where he became a solid mid-card draw wrestling as Carlos Belafonte. With partner, Gino Caruso, Belafonte won the Stampede Wrestling International Tag Team title on April 13, 1973, the first championship of the twenty-five-year-old’s career.
Beginning in the 1960s, pro wrestling on the island of Puerto Rico had been promoted primarily by Florida matchmaker Clarence “Cowboy” Luttrell. Luttrell’s L&G Promotions ran shows throughout the country that featured top NWA stars, including the NWA World Heavyweight champion. However, what Luttrell’s cards didn’t feature were local Puerto Rican wrestlers, many of whom were very talented and marketable. A void was created that Colon, along with business partners Victor Jovica and World Wide Wrestling Federation wrestler/promoter Gorilla Monsoon, felt could be filled through the creation of a new promotion. In 1973, Colon, Jovica and Monsoon formed Capitol Sports Promotions, which is better known as the World Wrestling Council.
Capitol Sports featured the best of the region’s local grapplers, as well as many well-known American workers and the exciting new promotion soon became a legitimate threat to L&G Promotions’ position as the number one wrestling company in the Caribbean. At the same time, Carlos Colon quickly established himself as a top drawing card for the new “outlaw” promotion, and he soon became its most popular fan favorite. It was during this time that he also began his journey to become the most prolific champion in the history of the promotion. In 1974 alone (which was the first full year of the Capitol Sports’ existence in Puerto Rico), Colon defeated Dick Steinborn to become the World Jr. Heavyweight champion, and he also captured the North American Tag Team title twice, with Gino Caruso and Jose Perez, respectively. The Puerto Rican sensation then capped the year off by wrestling the North American Heavyweight championship away from the massive former NFL superstar, Ernie “The Big Cat” Ladd.
Regarding the North American title, which was the promotion’s top championship until the WWC World Heavyweight title was established in 1982, Colon carried the championship belt on eight separate occasions between 1974 through 1981. Along the way, the popular Colon defeated such noted “foreign” ring villains as Ladd, Gorilla Monsoon, Killer Karl Krupp and Eric the Red, among others. Additionally, Colon won another very prestigious singles championship, the Puerto Rican Heavyweight title, on nine different occasions from 1977 through 1999. As the Puerto Rican champion, Colon had many heated title defenses against foes such as Pampero Firpo, The Mongolian Stomper and the man who was unquestionably Colon’s arch-nemesis, the bloodthirsty Abdullah the Butcher.
The infamous feud between Carlos Colon and Abdullah the Butcher has gone down in Caribbean wrestling history as one of the bloodiest and most barbaric ever, and with good reason. Their ongoing war began in the late Seventies and would go on to last throughout the Eighties and into the Nineties, growing in intensity with each new blood-soaked encounter. Through proper booking, the gruesome Colon-Butcher bloodbaths consistently translated into some of the biggest gates in the WWC’s history, match after match, year after year, with their bloody battles and creative angles always leaving the fans wanting more. During his epic feud with “The Madman from the Sudan,” Colon was not only continually sliced & diced by The Butcher’s ever-present fork, he also suffered attacks by Abdullah on members of his family and was once even “blinded” when Abdullah sprayed ammonia in his eyes. In retaliation, he was often forced to fight fire with fire, so to speak, and the hot-tempered Colon doled out more than a fair share of retribution to the deserving Butcher. Needless to say, as the old wrestling cliché goes, there was certainly no love lost between these two bitter enemies. Colon and Abdullah squared off against each other in some of the most sadistic “hardcore” matches ever witnessed, even though no one had yet come up with that term to describe the intense and brutal action taking place in the ring. Over the years, Colon and The Butcher truly perfected the art of destroying each other, with their specialty being pro wrestling’s most feared event during the early Eighties, the Barbed Wire Match. Yet, while the two seemingly enjoyed working this dangerous type of specialty match, they were certainly not confined to it. In addition to the Barbed Wire Matches, Colon and Abdullah also engaged in countless Chain Matches, Lumberjack Matches, Puerto Rican Death Matches and, of course, a traditional steel cage was often employed in order to keep the violence at a maximum.
In terms of storyline, over the fifteen years that they tore into each other, there were certainly many twists and turns along the way, to say the least. Yet, in the end, the world-famous feud between Carlos Colon and Abdullah the Butcher finally (after lasting through portions of three separate decades) ended in onscreen friendship between the two. Several years after Abdullah had lost a monumental 1997 Loser Leaves Town match, Colon had his hands full with a new rival and was in the midst of a feud nearly as heated as the Colon-Butcher wars. Having been viciously attacked repeatedly by his former friend Ray Gonzales, Colon turned to the one man he knew was ruthless and barbaric enough to truly help him destroy Gonzales, his vanquished archenemy, Abdullah the Butcher. With no other options available to him, Colon traveled to Atlanta, Georgia, the site of Abdullah’s popular restaurant, and had a meeting with The Butcher, which was documented by a WWC camera crew. After Colon made his case, Abdullah agreed to return to Puerto Rico and help fight the turncoat Gonzales & his cronies. When he finally made his triumphant return to Puerto Rican rings in 1999, the once despised Butcher (with his former archenemy Colon by his side) was greeted with roars of approval by the nostalgic sold-out crowds.
In addition to his dozens of singles championships, Carlos Colon was also a very successful tag team wrestler. Indeed, Colon’s title resume in the Puerto Rican tag division is nearly as impressive as his championship accomplishments in the singles division. Between 1974 and 1981, he won the prestigious North American Tag Team title nine different times with a variety of partners, including Gino Caruso, Jose Perez, Bob Ellis, Jose Rivera, Victor Jovica, Hurricane Castillo, The Invader and others. In addition to his nine North American Tag Team victories, Colon also captured the even more prestigious WWC World Tag Team title three times; in 1977 with Jose Rivera, in 1983 with Pedro Morales and in 1989 with Invader #1.
By the late Seventies, Capitol Sports Promotions was clearly the most dominant, profitable promotion in the Caribbean and Colon was eventually contacted by representatives of the National Wrestling Alliance about joining the NWA. Teaming the WWC with the Alliance, the largest and most powerful wrestling organization in the world, created a plethora of exciting new match-ups and moneymaking opportunities. Additionally, when Capitol Sports became a member of the NWA in 1979, Carlos Colon was given a chair on the NWA Board of Directors, a very powerful position which guaranteed Colon that the WWC would be well represented when it came to important Alliance decisions.
Soon after the WWC entered into its partnership with the NWA, Colon’s group benefited greatly from an influx of fresh, top-level talent. Not that the World Wrestling Council had been lacking in big name wrestlers before, but following its entry into the NWA, the promotion’s popularity reached even greater, previously unforeseen heights. At one point, the WWC was one of the three most successful and profitable of the National Wrestling Alliance’s numerous member promotions. Regarding the WWC Universal championship, Colon wore the prized title belt on an incredible twenty-six separate occasions between 1982-1999, defeating WWC champions such as Abdullah the Butcher, Ox Baker, Dory Funk, Jr., Hercules Ayala, Steve Strong, Ron Garvin, Invader I, Dick Murdoch, Dutch Mantel and many others in order to gain the promotion’s primary championship. Colon also captured the WWC World Television title several times by defeating opponents such as “Rotten” Ron Starr (1988), Jason the Terrible (1989) and The Mighty Kodiak (1994). Although he attempted retiring on a few occasions, most notably in 1992, Colon was always drawn back into the ring.
During the four decades he spent as Puerto Rico’s top wrestler and preeminent champion, the fiery-tempered Carlos Colon was involved in bitter, intense and bloody rivalries with dozens of the biggest names in pro wrestling. It’s no stretch to say that every major name who passed through Puerto Rico was matched up against the local legend at some point, and as a result, Colon, in addition to perfecting his standard “blood-and-guts” type of match, became a very adaptable, well-rounded performer. Of course, his famous matches with Abdullah, Ric Flair, Monsoon, The Invader and Harley Race are well documented. However, Puerto Rico’s most famous wrestler also engaged in classic, highly memorable programs with the formidable likes of Stan Hansen, The Funk Brothers, The Wild Samoans, Randy Savage, Hercules Ayala, Ron Garvin, Steve Strong, Ernie Ladd, The Spoiler, Ray Gonzales, Ox Baker, The Mongolian Stomper, Pampero Firpo, TNT (Savio Vega), Bobby Jaggers and Bruiser Brody.
Unfortunately, no story about Puerto Rican wrestling can be told without including the tragic event involving Colon’s booker and close friend Jose Gonzalez and the legendary Bruiser Brody. When Brody was murdered by Gonzalez in the locker room of a WWC event on July 17, 1988, it was headline news around Puerto Rico and, indeed, the world. The fallout from Brody’s death was devastating in a number of ways and on many levels, one of which included the immediate decline in business for the World Wrestling Council, a decline from which the promotion has truly never fully recovered.
That said, there is no doubt that without the talent and leadership of Carlos Colon, the fate of pro wrestling in Puerto Rico would surely have been radically different. Over the course of his forty years in wrestling, Colon left an indelible thumbprint on the business in his native land, forever changing the sport in the Caribbean. At the same time, by hiring local Puerto Rican wrestlers when others would not, Colon was more than partially responsible for creating and providing a bounty of opportunities that had not previously existed for the majority of the island’s indigenous talent, including his three talented children that followed him into the ring, Carlos, Jr. (Carlito), Eddie (Primo) and Stacy, as well as his nephew Orlando (Epico).
Carlos Colon was ranked by Pro Wrestling Illustrated magazine as #39 of the “500 best singles wrestlers of the PWI Years” in 2003, and is a member of the WWE Hall of Fame (2014) and the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame (2015).